How did our day start? What is Ceylon and Sri Lanka famous for? Think. How about tea? That’s right tea. You know the stuff that they put into little bags that we dip in hot water. That’s the way Americans have tea, but almost everyone else has their tea brewed and simmered.So we left the hotel in Kandy at 9:30. Kandy is such a busy city filled with people going places and traffic almost at a constant standstill. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic was impressive for the human outpouring of emotion that we witnessed. The dedication and belief that the people have for their religion is impressive. I saw people praying and meditating outside the gates to the Temple. Their minds seemed to be somewhere else.
We are driving to a town named Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is located high up in the tallest mountains of Sri Lanka or about 6500 feet up in elevation. We drove and drove through small villages and towns. We then entered an area where the vegetation started to turn a bright green. At about 11:30 we stopped at a tea plantation. The countryside was full of tea plants. The plants are all about the same size or about three feet. They are purposely kept this height so that it is easier to pick the leaves. If the trees were left to grow, they would grow to be the size of normal trees. The countryside was very hilly and the tea plants were planted on terraces. Olivia and myself saw terrace farming in the Sacred Valley of Peru last year. The Incan people used this type of farming over one thousand years ago. There were dirt paths amongst the terraces and we saw people picking the leaves and putting the leaves into large bags and baskets that they were carrying. The plantation gave each of us a large basket to pick the leaves and we followed a local woman into some terraces to start picking. I passed and wanted to take pictures of this beautiful and lush scene. Olivia and the others did the picking. We then went into a large wooden factory where there were local people working. This plantation has been open since 1867. A little bit of history about tea in Sri Lanka. The British originally planted coffee in Sri Lanka and then the coffee plants were all wiped out by a disease. A Scottish man then went to India to learn how to grow and produce tea. He brought that knowledge back to Sri Lanka in 1850 and the tea industry was born. The preparation of tea leaves is a four step process except the processing of green tea involves three steps. We were given demonstrations of each step while workers worked each process. A little bit about the workers. They are paid 800 rupees per day or less than six dollars a day. They are given housing, food, medical care and schooling for their children. Sounds like a good deal, but it is hard work in a hot factory. They work six days a week. There were signs that said to not give the workers money, but there would be a large box outside that you could give if you wanted to. I took some pictures of the workers. They were very friendly. Some of them asked me for money. I felt uncomfortable so I left a nice tip in the box outside for all of them. I hope they get the money. After the processing demonstrations, we were taken to a tasting room and sampled many different varieties. We were told that the worst leaves are used in tea bags. So the next time you drink tea by using a tea bag, think about making it the old fashioned way. You might like it better and understand that the drinking of tea is a way of life for many people. After that we walked through the gift shop and Olivia picked up some to take home. As we left, my thoughts returned to the workers and how different our lives are.
We then drove and kept on climbing up into the mountains and clouds. The higher we drove, the greener it got. Tea plants all over and the green was such a deep green. It was finally lunch time. We pulled over at a nice looking restaurant overlooking a beautiful valley with a large waterfall. It had just stopped raining and the clouds were hanging over the green mountains. Olivia and myself decided to skip lunch. I just had coffee and went back to the bus to grab one of my cameras with a telephoto lens. I then walked out on the terrace and took aim. The waterfall is called “Ramboda Falls”. A beautiful scene amongst tea plants and lush green vegetation with the clouds hanging over the valley.
After lunch, it was then onto Nuwara Eliya. We drove further up and passed tea plantations and farms. Some of the curves were hairpin curves and the bus could barely navigate the road especially when another vehicle was coming towards us. Nuwara Eliya is called “Little England”. Why is it called “Little England”? In 1819, a British officer went on a hunting trip and explored this whole area. He was taken back by the cool climate and convinced the British to build the town. The town was used as a resort by the British to escape the “Africa Hot” of the rest of Sri Lanka. The British settled here and built houses and government facilities like their homeland since it rains a lot here and the climate reminded them of England. The town looks like a town you would find in the countryside of many countries in Europe and England. The climate is cool and the conditions are wet. A nice break from the rest of Sri Lanka. We finally arrived at our hotel. A beautiful hotel named “Araliya Green Hills”. There are large wooden elephants in the lobby and the hotel staff warmly greeted us. When the porter brought up our bags I asked him where the A/C was? He just laughed and showed me where the heater was. No A/C needed here. We then all met for a walk into town and a tuk tuk ride to an old British Church. The tour guide took us to a local food market. A great variety of vegetables, fruits and fish. No meat. I saw a vendor taking out eggs from a crate where the eggs were shipped in straw that looked like nests.
We then got into the three wheeled tuk tuks for our ride to the British Church. The Church has a cemetery around it. We looked at some of the tombstones. Most of them were dated in the late eighteen hundreds to early nineteen hundreds and there were lots of tombstones of children. All the names appeared to be British in origin. We were then led into the Church. A very simple Church that had some beautiful stained glass windows. We were told that Queen Elizabeth visited the Church in 1952. It was like looking back in time to a place and way of life that does not exist anymore.
It was then back to the hotel for a rest and dinner. I checked out the hotel spa and noticed a list of great looking massages offered. I booked a deep tissue massage. A one hour deep tissue massage given by two Sri Lankan men. I hope no one in the hotel heard me screaming. They pulled my arms and legs and must have squeezed every muscle in them. I heard cracking that I had never heard before. I would say that the most painful thing was when they put their fists on the soles of my feet and rubbed them hard up and down. I must say that I felt totally relaxed afterwards.
Nuwara Eliya has given us a nice break from the rest of Sri Lanka. By the way, I finally saw the first golf course I have seen in Sri Lanka. Of course, located in a town like this.
As I travel around the world, once in a while I realize how fortunate I am leading the life I lead. Today was one of those days. When you are having a bad day, and we all do now and then, think how fortunate you are and how much worse your life could be.